Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dog gone

You gotta love it! A bloke called Dani Graves leads his girlfriend around on a doggy lead, but that's not the funny bit. The joke is: bus operator Arriva says they can't use the bus 'cos it'd be dangerous. Dangerous!

Apparently, if she wants to ride on their buses, Tasha Maltby (oh, come on, let's call her Bonzo) will have to take the lead off. A corporate spokesperson said (through his nether regions, I think) ...

"Our primary concern is passenger safety and while the couple are very welcome to travel on our buses, we are asking that Miss Maltby remove her dog lead before boarding the bus"

Surely anything that stops her plunging through windows in the event of a crash is a safety enhancement! Anyway, I guess this is great news for Pit Bulls everywhere. But no: Arriva's divine edict only applies to humans on leashes.

So Arriva is discriminating in favour of dogs and against humans. In the event of a sudden application of Arriva brakes, dogs get to stay in the bus whereas women get a free journey through reinforced glass and into rush-hour traffic.

Talk about political correctness and corporate PR gone crazy.

In truth, of course, Arriva is using weasel words to discriminate against this couple because it judges their chosen sub-culture to be undesirable. Cowering behind the mantle of political correctness, it is setting itself up as judge and jury over them.

I agree they look out-of-the-ordinary. I agree the leash may be construed by some as demeaning. But it's no more dangerous than holding hands. So thank you, Dani and Tasha, for giving us a laugh and showing these corporate dipsticks up for a bunch of bigoted busdrivers.

Lost in the crap

Great article by John Cooney in today's Irish Indo on a recent RTÉ radio phone-in where Wallace Thompson, chief aide to Nigel Dodds - but demeaning Ulster Prods purely in a personal capacity - called the Pope the anti-Christ.

<shaking head> Another blow for Jesus, eh? </shaking head>

I suggest Mr Wallace re-reads the book of Revelation! The Roman church may have bent some aspects of Biblical theology - and invented others - but that doesn't make its members unchristian, or its figurehead the anti-Christ.

Wallace slams the Church of Ireland for selling rosaries in St Patrick's cathedral. There's nothing unbibical about the idea of running beads through your fingers to help you remember what to pray for!

Just when he's getting right up our noses, though, Wallace - by now in full fury - says Catholics are wrong to pray to the Virgin Mary. Er, wait up!. Actually that's quite true by Biblical standards, and quite a few Anglicans - especially in England - should take note too. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Mary was anything other than a woman who found God's favour. She was not divine, she had no superhuman powers, and the idea - as put about by the Roman Catholic church - that she ascended into heaven like Jesus is not supported anywhere in scripture. She was a sinner loved and blessed by God, but nothing more, and praying to her is as pointless as praying to me will be in 100 years' time.

Being pointless, though, doesn't make something wrong. What makes praying to Mary or other saints wrong is that it takes our focus away from God - the one with the power, and to whom Jesus died to give us direct, unhindered access.

So praying to a dead human is (a) pointless, (b) unglorifying of God and (c) demeaning Jesus' ultimate sacrifice.

Excuse the blunt comparison, but when it comes to your life insurance would you not call the company direct rather than talk to a dead insurance broker with no qualifications other than being pally with the CEO?

Anyway, back to the subject. Whatever theological differences Protestants may have with RC doctrine, this Wally's outburst is just embarrassing because in an era where the Catholic church's vice-like grip on Éire politics has loosened and continues to slide into irrelevance, Protestants across Ireland need to be building bridges and seeking to influence, not repel.

We need to be conduits of God's love, gently pointing out the joys of Reformation theology (much of which mainland European Catholicism has now adopted anyway) rather than being some self-appointed punishment squad. Surely that's the work of the anti-Christ.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A planned trick?

Shock horror! Ian Paisley, the guy who had all of western Europe's MEPs cringing when he stood up in Strasbourg and called Pope John Paul II an antichrist, has taken part in an Christian service led by a Roman Catholic priest.
It was a scouting service, and the prayers were led by Fr Paul Symonds. Paisley gave the address.
We shouldn't be surprised. This is just another milestone in the transformation of Ian Paisley from bigoted zealot to inclusive man of God. Five years back he'd never have believed he could have enjoyed working with Martin McGuinness, and I'd say five days ago he'd never have thought he could survive an ecumenical service. He's still breathing.
After the event he said he'd not been told it would happen, and that if he'd been told he'd have refused to take part. I wonder. Paisley - like Trimble before him - is leading his voters from the front, i.e. doing more realpolitik than they would dare wish to be seen asking him to do. It's an interesting set of dynamics, and exciting too. Was it planned? Or, as Norn Iron usage has it, choreographed?
One clue will be in today's reactions of his party's frontmen. There will be at least one dissenting voice - hey, who wants it to be too obvious! - but if the majority feeling is behind Paisley ("and wasn't it a mean trick"), I think we'll have our answer because such non-commitment will allow face to be saved if the party grassroots revolt (unlikely IMHO). On the other hand, if the frontmen play it down we'll know it wasn't orchestrated because that'll be plain old-fashioned embarrassment.
There may be a bit of reverse logic in there, but such is life in NI.
On the other hand, maybe this was just octogenarian Ian wanting to meet a few RCs before he gets to Heaven, 'cos there's sure to be some waiting to greet him - including JP2 who, I don't doubt it for a moment, will be wearing that same puzzled but loving expression I like to call the "Strasbourg Smile".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Murder is murder

I'm all for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission here, à la South Africa, but the body that may be a pre-cursor to it - the Robin Eames and Denis Bradley roadshow - has got off to a moral bad start by suggesting the IRA's campaign of murder was war. It was not.

In war, both sides attack non-defensively. The RUC did not do that, despite what Republican propaganda would have us believe. The UDR did not do that. With the inexcusable exception of Bloody Sunday, neither did the British Army. Nor did the civilians who bore the brunt of terrorist evil. Who did ambulance driver Kit Johnston and his wife shoot at in 1987 before dying in the rubble at the Enniskillen war memorial? Who did my 16-year-old schoolfriend Paul Maxwell shoot at before being blown to smithereens piloting Lord Mountbatten's boat out of Mullaghmore harbour in August 1979? No one, ever. Innocents may die in war too, but these attacks were deliberately undertaken against innocents, and such attacks were the backbone of spineless Irish terrorism.

I strongly support the inclusion of Sinn Féin in government because of its clear electoral mandate. Some may say that terrorism got them there, but if Unionists hadn't disenfranchised Roman Catholics consistently in the 50 years of shame following partition, the IRA wouldn't have had a bed of discontent to feed off. Democracy is the key to a long-term balanced society, and we've finally got there.

The "Troubles", however, were a sustained campaign of utter terror, the like of which is hard for most to imagine now. The English were rightly outraged at the London tube bombings. Imagine that scene every fortnight, interspersed with shoot-and-run murders of farmers' eldest sons or part-time policemen gunned down at the breakfast table in front of their children. That was not war. It was a concerted, professionally executed campaign of racist murder by my fellow-countrymen against their fellow-countrymen.

Re-defining the past may fit some weak people's concept of reconciliation, but lasting respect cannot be built on a lie. We must confront the past together for what it was. It cannot be undone, it cannot be changed,it cannot be forgotten; but it can be acknowledged, regretted and left in peace while we move on to brighter days together.